Friday, March 14, 2014

When Gods Lift Among Men

While Girevoy Sport (GS) has a list of competition records and many unsanctioned records, performed with shorter times or heavier bells outside regular competition. When Denisov lifts 40kg Long Cycle for 5 minutes, the video may be called a "world record", and there's not really any public problem with that. However, if you or I or some average lifter posted a high-speed set with 12kg bells and called it a world record, no one would care. And they rightfully should not.

I have a problem with champions performing sprint sets with light bells at competitions. 26rpm snatch, 15rpm long cycle and the like don't have any of the form and stringency required when the rest of us attempt rank. That rank is a hard-won badge of honor for us, awarded for hard work. For a Pro to compete in the Amateur class in a regional event and win all the Amateur trophies lacks decorum, in my opinion. To do so under judging standards not consistent with the sport is a failure of integrity by the hosting organization.

Note: As an amateur American GS lifter, I want to emphasize that this is by no means a personal criticism of individuals sampled, but of this notion of champions and stunt performances. When I see a banner and a scoreboard, I should be able to use this performance for educational purposes.

Champions are role models, like it or not. When a champion lifts well outside his rank for entertainment purposes, it should simply be called an exhibition. At many WKC events, Ivan Denisov has performed exhibitions of 5min sets with 32kg or 40kg bells, not competing directly with the local amateurs. And, I applaud him for it. In this clip from the 2014 California Open, Sergei Merkulin snatches 32kg, and Aleksander Khvostov snatches 40kg, both well out of range of lifters like myself. It's inspiring to watch and valuable to study.

By contrast, this is a set by Denis Vasiliev at the OKC 2014 California Open, at a pace of about 15rpm with 24kg bells. I have issues with the form on display here. Vasiliev is capable of beautiful, textbook technique with 32kg and 40kg, but this does not match his usual quality.

I have the utmost respect for Vasiliev, but this is not a competition set. None of these reps came to any controlled pause at the top. Some barely achieved legal joint extension, but he did them and the judge counted them. This was applauded at the event and in social media, but it was completely not legal in most organizations. Contrast this 24kg set with the precision shown in Denisov's absolute world record set, performed in open competition, and tell me which event payed greater respect to the sport.

There's value in sprinting through the motions for conditioning, but not on the platform. There are two separate arguments to be made here, one about physically consistent standards, and my point about socially consistent standards. There shouldn't be no-counts for amateurs and applause for professionals for the same work.